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Reports on trips taken in 2013.

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We apologize, many wonderful trips were taken in 2006, but no trip reports were submitted for posting to the website.

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2018 Trips (22)

Reports on trips taken in 2018.

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Friday, 25 May 2018 23:10

2018 - DE Rendezvous Wrapup

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2018 DE Rendezvous Wrapup

by Bob Jacoby

Even though the weather didn't completely cooperate, the 2018 Desert Explorers Rendezvous was a fun and action packed event. We had a solid menu of events and an excellent turnout of about 61 members. This represents around 60% of our members. That would be an excellent percentage for most organizations.

The weekend started on Friday (4/6) with two interesting inbound trips led by Sue and Bob Jaussaud (Boron/Randsburg area) and Bill Powell (Coso Mountains). Both of these trips were interesting with lots of mines and other ruins that everyone enjoys. The weather on that Friday was pretty good also with not too much wind for most of the way.

(Please click "Read More" for the rest of the story, and there are a lot of photos from the event too!)

Friday, 25 May 2018 23:06

2018 - Rondy Guest Speaker

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Guest Speakerat the 2018 Rondy

Alexander (Sandy) Rogers

We were fortunate enough to have Mr. Rogers as our featured guest speaker at the 2018 rondy.  He is the archaeology curator at the Maturango museum in Ridgecrest and is a consulting archaeologist. 

Mr. Rogers was a physicist and engineer with the China Lake Naval Weapons Laboratory until retiring in 2002.  He has written numerous papers on hunter-gatherer cultures of the Great Basin and the archaeology of rock art.  He holds masters degrees in physics and anthropology. 

He gave us an excellent presentation of the petroglyphs of the Coso region which includes the upper Mojave Desert and southwestern.  He explained how obsidian can be dated and its origin traced.  Obsidian arrowheads and tools are found along early native trade routes and their origin can be identified.

Friday, 25 May 2018 23:00

2018 - Trip Reports - Eastern Sierra Canyons

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Eastern Sierra Canyons

By Bob Jacoby

I have taken dozens of trips through the years on Highway 395 traversing the Indian Wells Valley.  On all these trips I noticed several canyons in the distance to the west  in the Eastern Sierra.  For a long time I wanted to visit these canyons and since the Rondy was in Ridgecrest this year, an exploratory trip to this area was most appropriate.

Our large group met at the Ridgecrest Fairgrounds on Saturday morning (4/7) of the Rondy weekend.  The group consisted of the following individuals:  Ellen Miller, Barbara and Ken Midlikoski, Bill Powell, Terry and Eileen  Ogden, Leonard and Rebecca Freidman, Joan and Ted Berger, Jim Watson, Dave Burdick, Larry Boerio, Peter and Janet Austin, David and Lois Hess, Ken and Jill Eltritch,  Frederick Raab, Bill and Julie Smith, Marian and Neal Johns , Steven and Sally  Falstitch plus Yours Truly and the incredible Bill Powell.  (If I left anyone out, my apologies.)    Even though this was a large group everything worked out well as we were able to carpool to reduce the number of vehicles.   It was a cool morning and the weather to the west looked threatening, but we intrepidly headed west toward the Sierras. 

Our initial destination appeared on the map as Cow Heaven Canyon.  The farther west we went into this beautiful canyon the worse the road became,  but it was all very doable.   As we progressed up the canyon, we noted Kiavah Wilderness signs of both sides of the road.  This area was designated as  wilderness  as part of the California Desert Protection Act passed in 1994.  This canyon is an area where the the Pinon Pines of the Sierras.  All in all, it was very picturesque.  We soon hit the end of the road at another wilderness boundary.  We were forced to do a turn around and headed back down canyon to the north/south dirt road at the base of the Sierras.  This road would take us to the turnoff to Sage Canyon which was next on our list.

The first thing we noticed as we started up the fairly rugged Sage Canyon Road was considerable greenery including the sudden appearance of willows.   This is a pretty good indicator that there is water near the surface.  The farther west we went on this road, the steeper it got.  The more difficult it became and the worse the weather became as it began to rain.  The rain soon became a downpour and we made the decision to turn around and head back before the mud would make things very difficult.  It wasn't easy doing a turnaround with this many cars, but we accomplished the task with little problem and headed back down Sage Canyon.  At the mouth of Sage Canyon we visited an old stone cabin which we missed on the way up.

Because of the continuation of threatening weather, we decided not to visit the next canyon south (Horse Canyon) and determined  the best decision was to head back to Ridgecrest.  Nevertheless this was a fun and interesting outing as far as we got and even though the weather forced us to cut the trip short, it actually added to the overall experience.

Our fun group then headed back on desert dirt roads toward Ridgecrest and the BBQ catered dinner that awaited us.  We may do a Desert Explorer trip again to this area when the weather forecast is right.  ~ Bob

Photos: Julie Smith, Bob Jacoby & Barbara Midlikowski

Friday, 25 May 2018 22:52

2018 - Trip Report - Trona Pinnacles

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Trip Report: Trona Pinnacles

By Jerry Dupree

We were having such a great time at the Rendezvous that it was difficult to choose between all of the trips in the area. Dolly and I had volunteered to lead a tour to the Trona Pinnacles. Since we had never been there we researched it online and were given information from Bob Jacoby, which had a lot of useful information.

The Trona Pinnacles are located about 20 miles from Ridgecrest and about 20 miles from Trona. The area is an ancient dry lake bed and there are wave marks along the original shore line indicating that the lake was at least 60 feet deep. The pinnacles are made of calcium carbide formed underwater from steam vents under the lake bottom. The pinnacles vary in height to about 40 feet. There is nothing around them, so they are visible for miles and look like something one would imagine the surface of another planet to look like. The pinnacles have been the scenery and background for several movies and television commercials.

Of course we took the wrong turn from the road and wound up traveling quite a distance along the wrong side of a railroad track. I didn't realize how easily our four wheel drive vehicles could drive over the tracks and had visualized someone getting stuck on the tracks while a train would be coming. It was easier than I had thought.

We drove to the pinnacles and there was a welcome site of a restroom. There were no supplies available but we had toilet paper and hand sanitizer with us to share. "Don't leave home without it." I noticed a void of animal life because the area was so desolate of water and vegetation. No tracks or droppings in the area. There also was no shade to stop and have lunch. We improvised and sat in the shade of our vehicles.

The pinnacles were beautiful and some of us hiked up as far as possible, however the higher we climbed the more wind and blowing dust and sand, which was especially unpleasant for those wearing contacts.

Using a GPS, we were following a route to the nearest road back and some of us broke off to visit the Trona museum on the way back. We needed to pick up some supplies for the catered dinner, therefore we missed the Trona museum. It is our habit to visit museums everywhere we travel and we call it "museum hopping" which is also the least expensive thing to do on trips.

We were very glad to see the Trona Pinnacles and every other adventure as members of the Desert Explorers.  ~ Jerry

Photos: Jerry Dupree

and Jay Lawrence

Friday, 25 May 2018 22:45

2018 - Rondy Inbound Trip to Coso Mtns

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Rondy Inbound Trip to Coso Mountains

By Bob Jacoby

A group of seven of us met on Friday April 6 near Red Hill in Inyo County to begin the Rondy weekend with an inbound tour of the Coso Mountains. Our group consisted of myself, Leonard and Rebecca Friedman, Craig Baker, Bill Powell, and Ron and Barbara Midlikoski. It was a nice day and we all were anxious to kick off the Rondy weekend.

The Coso Range is situated on the east side of the Owens Valley at its southern end. The mountains are volcanic in nature with considerable geothermal activity. They are also a key source of pumice which is used as a cleaner. 

Most of the range is within the boundaries of the China Lake Naval Air Station. We designed our excursion to explore the area that is not within the boundaries and is open to the public.

We headed north on 395 and turned east on a paved road about five miles north of Red Hill. After following this road east for several miles we came upon a high standard dirt road that headed north into a pumice mining area. There were some active mines nearby but we managed to find an abandoned mine at the end of a side road. Some research indicated that this site was mined in the 1960’s by Desert Materials Corporation of Los Angeles. At this site there were layers of white ash that were once shot out of a nearby volcano.

We traversed back to the well graded dirt, used by mining trucks today, and followed the road another couple of miles until we came to a much more obscure side road to the west. This scenic road took us to a beautiful Joshua Tree Forest which appears on the map as McCloud Flat. This beautiful scenery also included some wild flowers in bloom.

As we left McCloud Flat road the road continued to deteriorate and it was soon time to engage four wheel drive as we traversed a moderate sized playa. We then descended down into a steep canyon which immediately got everyone’s full attention. Everybody made it fine down the steep road where we came to a tiny cabin near the area of what on the map was called the Jack Henry Mine.

We stopped and explored the cabin and the mine remnants and really enjoyed the scenery and the great weather. After leaving the mine we continued down the canyon into an area identified as Cactus Flat. This was another Joshua Tree Forest and also quite a beautiful area.

As we continued heading west we encountered several more active pumice mines. It wasn’t long before the Haiwee Reservoir came into view in the distance. The Reservoir was 

created in 1913 as a result of dam that was part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct System. Beyond the reservoir we encountered a ranch that was growing alfalfa.

It wasn’t long before we hit pavement and we eventually arrived back at 395 near Olancha. By that time we were all ready to head back to Ridgecrest to enjoy the Friday evening pot luck. We all agreed that the Rondy was off to a good start with this off the beaten path tour of the Coso Mountains.  ~ Bob

Friday, 25 May 2018 22:36

2018 - Trip Report - Boron to Randsburg

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Rondy Inbound Boron to Randsburg

“Plan B”

By Sue Jaussaud

Our original plan was to lead this inbound trip as an exploratory, but when the number of participants went beyond 20, Bob and I could not imagine getting lost in front of that many people. We urgently needed to prerun the trip!

So bright and not so early on the Thursday before the Friday trip, we drove to Boron to begin our prerun. Skirting the huge Borax Mine tailings, we checked out 2 cinder quarries and some modern day ruins. Yawn. Things did become more interesting as we continued north, though. We found a long abandoned USAF radio site on a remote hilltop. There was a huge modern mural on one side of the building. Bob felt the vivacious young lady depicted riding a bomb looked a lot like Marian Johns.

Moving further north, we encountered the remains of a few homesteads and eventually located Castle Butte Well and more interesting art work. From the well we junctioned with 20 Mule Team Parkway and followed it to Galileo Hill.

There is a curious development on the north side of Galileo Hill named “Silver Saddle Ranch and Club”, complete with paved streets, landscaping, ponds, a petting zoo (are those llamas?), a golf course and a club house. It felt as if we had just entered a time warp. A lady at the reception desk was real enough, though, and graciously gave us permission to bring our group by the next day to use the restrooms. Silver Saddle Ranch was originally developed as a real estate venture by Nat Mendelson in the 1950’s. He was evidently hoping to create the next

Los Angeles. The place has changed hands a number of times and has a colorful history.

We were starting to lose daylight, so Bob and I worked our way northeast on the Randsburg Mojave Road, took a quick look at the abandoned 

dwellings around the Blackhawk Mine, then skedaddled for our motel room in Ridgecrest.

It rained in Ridgecrest Thursday night, and the wind was howling the next morning. Heading south to meet our group in Boron, clouds of dust filled the air. Four wheeling in this stuff would be bad! Then inspiration struck. We had been told, by long time DE member David Mott, about a “20 Mule Team” mural at the abandoned prison north of Boron. No time like the present to check it out! We drove into the prison past many derelict, heavily graffitied buildings and finally located the mural, which was in surprisingly good shape. Our reaction was that everyone would enjoy seeing this and we needed to include it in the inbound. The beginning of “Plan B.”

Continuing our rush south on Highway 395, Bob remembered visiting a very cool antique collection in the old metal buildings at Kramer Junction. Arriving at the junction, we saw a side door was open and Bob dashed in to ask if it was possible to bring the group by. As luck would have it, the friendly owners, brothers Jim “Tinker” and Dennis Darr, were there and said the group would be welcome to visit. Another part of “Plan B” fell into place.

Pete and Janet Austin, Jim Watson and Linda Stevens, Dave Rehrer, Ron Lipari, Mike Vollmert, Mignon Slentz, Deb and Steve Marschke, Terry and Eileen Ogden, Bruce Barnett, Ellen Miller, Bill and Julie Smith, Vicki Hill, Dave McFarland, Glenn Shaw, Neal and Marian Johns were all waiting for us at the 20 Mule Team Museum in Boron. The weather was miserable and everyone was enthusiastic about our “Plan B.” Danny and Norma Siler, with their friend Paul, joined us for the first part of the trip.

We all drove back to Kramer Junction, to the huge private antique collection. It was great to see so many wonderful old things and be out of the wind and dust. After an interesting hour, Bob was Þnally able to pry folks away and our group 

headed north to visit the prison and 20 Mule Team mural. The mural was done by the prison inmates sometime in the early 1980's. The Boron Prison was active from 1978 to 2000 and housed approximately 540 minimum security prisoners. The facility was originally established as a Radar Command Station in 1952. Thanks to David Mott for providing us with this information.

From the prison, we were able to resume the prerun route of the day before. Thanks are due to Ron and Mike for being a big help as "sweep" during the whole trip. Also thanks to our trip photographers:Vicki Hill, Janet Austin, Bill and Julie Smith. It was a good day with a great group of friends!  ~ Sue

Friday, 25 May 2018 22:22

Desert Explorers Meeting March 3rd, 2018

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Desert Explorers Meeting Minutes

March 3rd, 2018

Attending: Jean & Sunny Hansen, Jerry & Dolly Dupree, Dave Burdick, Emmett & Ruth Harder, Allan & Ding Wicker, Neal & Marian Johns, Terry Ogden, Daniel Dick & Bobby Sanchez, Bill & Julie Smith, Jay Lawrence, Bob Jacoby.

Meeting Opened 11:35 a.m.

Previous minutes Approved.

Regrets Deb & Steve Marschke, Nelson Miller, Bill Neill

Treasurer As of the meeting we have 95 active memberships. Museum dues will be able to be paid at the same time as DE dues soon. We have seven new memberships since December 16. New subscribers are coming in through our 

website and subscribing online. Current treasury $5,291.56, with website renewal and Rondy expenses pending.

Newsletter Going well, attaboys and compliments offered. Suggested running a bunch of DE business cards with just the logo and web address and giving out a bunch to each member to have on hand when talking to new people about DE. Will also check out a new run of bumper stickers. Report back next meeting.

Rondy Two inbound trips, Jacoby in the Cosos with Bill Powell, Bob Jaussaud Boron to Randsburg. Potluck Friday night with Bill Powell presentation teaser for the Hastings Cutoff trip. Two Saturday trips, Jerry Dupree to Trona Pinnacles, Bob Jacoby to the Sierras. Catered dinner with speaker Dr. Sandy Rogers on China Lake petroglyphs. Sunday trips: Nelson to the El Pasos, Jay to Red Rocks. NO ALCOHOL at Rondy site.

Website Deb reports no problem in the last six months, no cyber attacks. Up to date through February, archives have all of 2017 newsletters. There is now a linked photo memorial for Jerry Harada & Coop Cooper. Big Thanks to Crazy Suzy for all her work! Ham operator page is updated. All of Neal Johns hidden past is posted. The domain is renewed and current. Big Thanks to our WebGoddess Deb Miller Marschke!

Subscriber Guide Tabled. Updating the Guide has been on the back burner but we will endeavor to have it whipped into shape soonish.

Museum Work party was a grand success and greatly appreciated by Pat and the Museum crew. Also noted was how good the museum newsletter is looking these days. Good work!

Trips Post Rondy:

  • • Hastings Cutoff - will require high clearance 4WD
  • • Late summer - Nelson Miller Sequoia Groves 2-3 day trip
  • • Route 66 - Bob Jacoby to lead 66 across Arizona and California.

New Business

  • • Bill Neill sent excellent grapefruit! Pick up a couple.
  • • Christmas party date December 15

Next meeting May 12th at Ding & Allan Wicker’s home.

Friday, 25 May 2018 22:11

The Desert Magazine 1937 1985

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The Desert Magazine 1937-1985

By Michael Vermette

I’ve been in love with the desert since I was a kid. I grew up in San Bernardino and spent a lot of time exploring the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. After many years away, I’m again spending time exploring the desert back-country and seeing first-hand the evidence of the people, places, and events that took place when the desert was a true frontier. Whenever I run across an old cabin, I have the same questions. Who lived there and what was their story? What was their life like in such an isolated environment? While we can still find evidence of their existence, their stories are fading over time. Knowing the history of what I’m seeing has always made my explorations more enjoyable. I love to talk to the “old timers” about the desert but they’re also getting harder and harder to find nowadays.

One of my favorite resources for planning my wanderings is “The Desert Magazine.” If you’re interested in desert history, Desert Magazine will give you hours of enjoyment and allow you to better understand the rich history of our local deserts. You will conclude, as I have, that we’re lucky to live in this part of the world where rugged individualists paved the way for our modern Western spirit. I’m sure many of you have either heard of Desert Magazine or have even read issues and articles. I’ll attempt here

to pass on some additional info to those people and perhaps introduce some new people to a great resource for desert history.

In 1937, a man named Randall Henderson started up a modest little magazine that was simply named “The Desert Magazine.” The magazine contained articles about the deserts in California, Arizona, and Nevada written by people who experienced much of the history first hand and who clearly loved the beauty and serenity of the desert.

In the first issue published in November 1937, Henderson wrote an editorial titled “There Are Two Deserts.” This editorial set the tone for the many issues to follow. He said of the two deserts that “One is a grim desolate wasteland. It is the home of venomous reptiles and stinging insets, or vicious thorn-covered plants and trees, and unbearable heat. This is the desert seen by the stranger speeding along the highway, impatient to be out of ‘this damnable country’.” He also wrote “The other desert -- the real desert -- is not for the eyes of the superficial observer, or the fearful soul or the cynic. It is a land, the character of which is hidden except to those who come with friendliness and understanding.” From the tone of Henderson’s writing, you can see that he loved the desert and for this reason he was able to attract hundreds of authors who shared his understanding of the beauty to be found there.

If you aren’t already familiar with Desert Magazine, here are a couple of ways to find all 534 issues published between 1937 and 1985:

http://desertmagazine.com

This website is apparently a labor of love dedicated to preserving the history of Desert Magazine. The clean and organized format allows you to read selected articles from various issues and to download copies of both single issues and annual archives from 1937-1985. There is no charge for downloading issues or archives and the website is free of ads or commercial banners. If you enjoyed it or found it useful, use the ‘Contact’ tab to let the author know his work is appreciated.

http://www.swdeserts.com

This website is a loyalist’s attempt to preserve and continue the legacy of Desert Magazine in the form of “The Desert Magazine of the Southwest.”  It contains archived issues in convenient “flipbook” format. Unfortunately, the issues cannot be downloaded but it is a great place to read selected issues and browse their indexes. You can purchase a set of two DVDs containing all 534 issues in PDF format.

The spirit of Desert Magazine lives on. A writer by the name of John Grasson has published a new magazine titled “Dezert Magazine” (note the ‘z’ in the spelling) at http://dezertmagazine.com styled much like the original magazine and containing updated information of interest to all desert explorers. And yes, some of you may have noticed that the Desert Explorers Newsletter is also carrying on the spirit!

As to the original Desert Magazine, Randall Henderson continued on as publisher until 1958. You may have heard his name before as he played an important role in establishing Joshua Tree National Monument (now Joshua Tree National Park). Henderson graduated from USC in 1911 and initially worked as a sports reporter for the LA Times in college. He died in 1970, 12 years after selling Desert Magazine. The magazine was subsequently sold two more times.

Desert Magazine’s headquarters started out in El Centro, CA in 1937 but moved to Palm Desert in 1948. It continued to publish during WWII when the Army, represented by General George S. Patton, established the Desert Training Center. The center, needed to train the U.S. Army for the expected invasion of North Africa, covered 18,000 square miles of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Over 1.2 million men were trained at the Desert Training Center between 1942 and 1944. Many of the men trained there eventually moved to Southern California after the war and became readers of the magazine.

There is something for everyone in Desert Magazine. The writers, fellow explorers, and original ‘desert rats’ wrote stories about the indigenous people, miners, residents, artists, mineral collectors, plants, animals, and geology of the desert. Their tales often give us a glimpse of the human story behind the book history of the Southwest. You may also enjoy reading the advertisements that reflect the culture and technology of the era.

As you read through the issues, you’ll find that during the final years in the 1980’s, publication became spotty and the magazine struggled to stay alive. The magazine was published monthly until 1979, then with occasional gaps in issues until 1982, and then only sporadically thereafter until it finally went out of business in 1985. Attempts were made to re-start the magazine, but none lasted very long. You’ll find archived copies of “American Desert Magazine”, one of the several follow-on attempts, on several websites. While the enormous popularity and authenticity of Desert Magazine led to attempts to copy the format, none fully captured the spirit and authenticity of the desert found in the original.

In the last couple of years, I’ve used stories and articles in Desert Magazine to plan trips to local areas. The maps accompanying the article can give you an area and using Google Earth will likely pinpoint the location. Just knowing what was there in the early days can lead you to some great locations that may now only be ruins or rusted remnants. Some of the places talked about in the magazine are now in Wilderness Areas and are no longer accessible by vehicle. On the plus side, those places are often more intact and they can still be accessed by hiking trails or walking old abandoned roads. Knowing the history of a place before I visit makes it all the more enjoyable and fun to talk about around the campfire.

One of my favorite stories in the magazine is about “Pegleg Pete”, who supposedly found a very rich gold nugget field somewhere in the Chocolate Mountains. The story goes that the nuggets he found had a very distinctive color, having gained a ‘desert varnish’ from laying on the surface. Many have looked for Pegleg’s gold but it was never reported found. In 1965, the editor of Desert Magazine received a package with some gold nuggets from a man who claimed to have found Pegleg’s gold. The nuggets sent to the editor matched the story of Peg Leg’s ‘black’ nuggets. The mystery discoverer corresponded several times with the publisher, but his identity was never discovered. This fascinating story is contained in several issues of Desert Magazine starting in March 1965. The story was told again most recently at DesertUSA and can be found at https://www.desertusa.com/desert-prospecting/pegleg.html

I have a theory that every civilization needs a ‘frontier’, or place where rugged individualists and genuinely independent folks can go who just don’t fit in elsewhere. We don’t really have that kind of frontier any more but perhaps space exploration will provide one for future generations. In the meantime, I’ll just go wander around desert landscapes and breathe a bit easier.

                                     ~ Michael

Friday, 25 May 2018 22:05

Desert Explorers at Large -Baker to Vegas

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Desert Explorers at Large

The Smiths (Bill & Julie) have been out-and-about helping with the annual Baker To Vegas law enforcement run March 16-17. Law Enforcement agencies from around the world compete in this desert relay race every year. We were assigned with the Amateur Radio group at Stage Four of the race along Hwy 127 about 30 miles south of Shoshone. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. we monitored race radio communications and kept track of the runners as they passed through our checkpoint. The teams were running the 120 mile course from Baker, CA through the night to reach the Finish in downtown Las Vegas. Each runner would run 5 to 10 miles and pass the baton to the next runner at each Stage along the demanding route. An exciting and inspirational event! For more info on this race: bakervegas.net

Friday, 25 May 2018 21:54

Roland

Written by

Roland

By Claudia Heller

February 2018

It was a long-forgotten town along Route 66 in the Mojave Desert that tugged at his heartstrings and gave him a higher purpose. But his love for the Mother Road began long before the fateful day when he discovered that vanished town and its ghostly inhabitants.

He preferred to be known by his first name: Roland. He kept his identity secret though he communicated with a few Roadies on line where he was affectionately known by his first name. “I grew up in Northern Indiana not very far from good ‘ol Route 66” he said. “I moved to California in 1986 and have been back and forth over the Mother Road many, many times.”

He favored sections of the Road in Oklahoma, Arizona “and of course California.” Right after moving to California he confesses he became a “desert rat” and when he could find the time he’d hop on his motorcycle or climb into his truck and head out to the desert.

“I took quite a shine to many of the desert towns over the years,” he confessed, “like Ludlow, Twenty Nine Palms, Amboy, Needles, Kelso and Nipton to name a few.”

One fateful day, Roland left his home in Los Angeles and headed to Arizona on business. To make the drive enjoyable, which he often did, he took Route 66, opting to vacate the boring Interstate. “I had read a book about the Mojave desert,” he said, “and its small hidden treasures.” On one such trip he pulled over to take in some rest time and think about the Road and its historical past. The area where he stopped was barren 

of markings, but he had read about it and knew what secrets it held. From that point on he never talked about the town by name, not wanting to encourage tourists to stop and desecrate the quiet and mostly forgotten spot.

“What a lonely forgotten spot it was,” he recalls. He had heard a rumor that a cemetery had once been discovered there, and on one of his trips he climbed over the railroad tracks and scanned the area as far as his eyes could see. There he caught a glimpse of a disturbance on the desert floor and hiked out to investigate.

There Roland made a discovery that would change his life, give him purpose, and fill his imagination. “What a lonely, long-forgotten patch of desert it was” he thought as he approached what once was a cemetery. The area was obviously a casualty of the elements, and more disturbing, it was the victim of vandals. He noted that only a few of the graves had any rocks around them. He also noted that three graves had been dug up to some extent “like someone had been trying to find some hidden treasures or maybe some bones.” Grave markers were broken and tossed about.

Roland confesses that this “upset me no end, so I decided on my own that over time “I would do my best get the place back in shape.” And so began a labor of love. Each subsequent trip Roland would visit the spot and do a little work filling in and smoothing out the excavated graves and carefully lining each with rocks. He tread softly, replaced markers and replaced a small wire that had encased the spot. “I bought a rake at Home Depot in Barstow which I hide in a location near the cemetery so I don’t have to drag it with me each trip,” he said 

What made Roland feel so responsible for this little cemetery that had been so ill-treated? He explains:

“Why did I do this, and continue to do it? Probably because as a kid, my parents would drag me and my three older sisters to our family cemetery in northern Indiana. My parents would spend hours there, planting, weeding, and watering the graves of their parents and a few other close relatives. As a kid, I would usually get bored while my parents were doing their graveyard chores and wander around the place doing ‘boy things’ like exploring for gold or scratching my skinny little behind. But to this day I have never forgotten what my parents did, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.”

Living over two thousand miles away from where his parents are buried, Roland knew he could not tend their graves but “if I’m out in the desert and have extra time, I felt I could make a difference in this lonely little cemetery out in the middle of nowhere.”

There are few who know Roland’s story. He says he has not mentioned it to his family or friends. In his own words: “If you would like to write about this, that is OK by me, but please don’t use my last name or advertise the name of the town.” Roland did share his story with a trusted author whose writings about Route 66 in the California desert enthralled him. That person, Joe de Kehoe, is well known to Route 66 enthusiasts. He has authored several books including The Silence and the Sun.

Roland often wrote about his adventures on the Road and his emails were easy to spot, always bold, italic and centered on the page. Joe shared one of the emails he received:

I stopped out at the cemetery last night on my way home from Las Vegas and did my usual clean-up work until well after dark.... ....I love that place after dark when there’s a full moon.... So peaceful.... ....It’s like time stands still for me when I’m out there....

Roland’s emails stopped for a while and then, sadly, both Joe and I received word that Roland had died unexpectedly. His family had found his correspondence and was kind enough to inform us of his untimely passing.

We are so very sad to hear this news. His love for Route 66, his compassion for those buried in a lonely graveyard in the Mojave, his hard work to give respect to ghosts he never knew, and his poignant descriptions of his time in the vanished town are not lost. Rest in peace, Roland.

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